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Adams County deputies investigate man’s death at community center

 

NATCHEZ — An Adams County man died of what authorities said appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound Wednesday morning in the parking lot of the Kingston Community Center.

“This morning about 7:30 a passerby observed the subject laying down beside the truck and he called the sheriff’s office,” said Jerry Brown, chief deputy Adams County Sheriff’s Office.

Deputies responded to the call at the county-owned facility, Brown said, where they found the body of Cameron Nicholas Collier, 40.

“He was laying on the floorboard on the driver’s side of the vehicle,” Brown said, “with what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The investigation is still pending some lab results.”

Officials did not indicate any potential motive for a suicide.

Collier, however, had been indicted in April 2014 for DUI leading to the death or mutilation of another in an April 2013 traffic accident that killed John H. Buckles, 91.

At the time of the accident, authorities said a pickup truck driven by Collier rear-ended a truck driven by Buckles, sending it off the road and turning it upside down before it came to a stop off the westbound lane of U.S. 84 near the Adams County Correctional Center.

Buckles was airlifted from the scene but died before he could receive medical treatment, authorities said.

A passenger in Collier’s vehicle also received minor injuries and was treated locally before being released.

After Collier’s indictment in 2014, however, the case never went to trial.

Sixth Judicial District Attorney Ronnie Harper said Wednesday the case never went to trial because Buckles’ family did not want to press charges and several family members filed sworn statements in court declining prosecution.

“As a practical matter, prosecution of any case is extremely difficult to pursue without the consent and participation of the victims,” Harper said. “As a result, this office elected to take no further action in this case.”

Buckles’ family members, who signed sworn statements of agreements not to prosecute in May 2014 and on file with the Adams County Circuit Court, include Michael Buckles, Jonnie McCarthy, Debra Whittington and Betty J. Rodoson.

Harper said state law 99-43-11 gives victims’ family members many rights and privileges in relation to the handling of their particular cases.

“This is as it should be, and I take this very seriously,” Harper said.

As a result of the family declining prosecution, even the DUI charges were never pursued, according to Adams County Circuit Court records.

Harper said it is not uncommon for prosecutors not to pursue the lesser DUI charge if the more serious charge of DUI causing death or injury is not prosecuted.

“One reason is because it could be a double-jeopardy situation if that were the case,” Harper said. “The concern is if you charge them with both counts, they run down to the justice court or municipal court and plead guilty to the DUI charge to avoid the possibility of being prosecuted on the other charge, so they forego any prosecution on the DUI charge itself.”

Collier’s case recently came back into the public spotlight on social media platforms earlier this week after some Natchez and Adams County residents reacted to a 20-year sentence imposed on Gary White, 30, who had pleaded guilty to vehicular manslaughter in a 2017 DUI case that killed Meagan Gunter Smith, 32.

District 6-2 Circuit Court Judge Debra Blackwell handed down the sentence Monday afternoon.

White had originally been charged with aggravated DUI and leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death. White, however, pleaded guilty in February to manslaughter and could have faced a maximum penalty of 40 years.

Some Adams County citizens have questioned the seemingly harsh sentence for White and whether race could have played a role in the sentencing since White is black and Smith was white, and questioning why Collier’s case never went to trial. Collier was white and Buckles was black.

Some community activists had planned a protest of White’s sentence to be held at 3 p.m. Friday in front of the Adams County Courthouse at 301 Market Street. However, organizers, via social media posts, postponed the protest Wednesday afternoon stating that new evidence in White’s case had been uncovered and would be presented to the judge. White family members have since said there is “no new evidence” in the case and have requested social media post suggesting that new evidence exists be removed.

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